Review: Classic Science Fiction, Volume 5

Classic Science Fiction, Volume 5 v2Classic Science Fiction, Volume 5

I didn’t enjoy this volume as much as Volume 3 or Volume 4.

The Wall by Howard Graham (1934) — A scientist puts a super-special lacquer on a square of material, causing a 200 mile long force field to bisect Manhattan. He and another scientist spend the rest of the story trying to remove the lacquer. I’m not sure what was supposed to be interesting about that, but I found it mildly humorous that when they succeeded, they blamed the force field on another scientist’s experiment so they wouldn’t get in trouble, and the other scientist became famous.

The Country of the Kind by Damon Knight (1956) — The main character of this story is a complete psychopath, written so convincingly that if I’d met the author in person, I’d have given him some funny looks. The story is set in the far future, and the psycho is a genetic throwback who is capable of physical violence. He stabbed a girlfriend to death after being rejected, but the future-people can’t kill him, so they programmed his brain to have an epileptic attack whenever he tries to harm another person. So, he runs around doing psycho stuff like destroying their cars and houses, and trying to convince others to become psychos.

The future-people apparently never think of putting psycho-guy in a cage or on a deserted island. I was about to write about how stupid this was, but then I realized that our governments release thousands of rapists and murderers onto the streets every year, with no epilepsy protection for us. So, perhaps I was about to call the wrong group of people stupid.

QRM-Interplanetary by George Smith (1942) — This story takes place on a space station at a Sol-Venus Lagrange point. The station’s purpose is to relay messages between Earth and Mars when the Sun is in the way. (Transmission speed is 11,000 words/minute, which I’m estimating as slower than a 14.4 modem).

A new boss shows up at the station, the 1942 version of Dilbert‘s pointy-haired boss. He wants to paint the outside of the station, because he doesn’t like the look of the shiny metal — the shiny metal that reflects the Sun’s heat. He visits the “air plant” and can’t find the air processing machinery because of all the “weeds” growing there, so he removes them, almost killing everyone on the station.

The story clearly veers into fantasy near the end, as the boss is fired and the station returns to normal. That’s not how these kind of stories end in real life.


  1. […] I decided to post this review in January because it’s a nice follow-up to my galactic empire setting series, and because January has been declared Vintage Sci-Fi Month.  January is a busy time for me at work (the galactic empire articles were pre-written), so I’m not sure how many more classic sci-fi stories I’ll review this month.  I have an Arthur C Clarke novel I’d like to review, but I may not have time for it until March.  I hope I’ll at least have time to review volume 1 of the Classic Science Fiction audiobooks. […]

  2. […] go back and do some more comprehensive reading of older sci-fi short stories, but I’ve had mixed results lately.  It seems like the smart thing to do would be to search out some modern novellas.  I […]

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